Stories of birth are powerful. The story of Roo’s birth is the best thing I’ve ever written. Best because of what it allows us to remember. The details of those thirty something hours are important for me because in that time, I came to know and love Kesh more than ever.
Often though, we choose to share the negative stories of birth, the horror stories. In the vast majority of cases though, birth is beautiful and birth is simple. After all, in the words of Ina May, ‘the Creator is not a careless mechanic’ and through his masterful design, women have been given the single most important role of humanity: the ability to create and nurture life.
Kesh asked me to write the birth story of our new born son and to keep it just for us this time – an idea I really resonated with. Her thoughts on this shifted today though, after reading a birth story that again promoted fear around such a beautiful design.
Funnily enough, the day Kesh went into labour, we’d had one of the worst days we could remember. The details won’t be shared but we each felt mentally drained after experiences the previous day. I knew we had to get to the beach. We’d been in the house all day and I knew getting out would help us to feel better. We headed straight to the beach as the sun was setting and I joked with Kesh that each time I immerse myself in the salty waters of the Pacific Ocean, it’s like I’ve been baptised and I leave feeling closer to my family and my Creator. We stood by the ocean as Roo played in the sand. I held Kesh as tears welled in her eyes and she said to me ‘I hope I don’t go into labour today. I don’t think I’d be able to get my head in the right place’. We swam as a family, Roo in between us. I’d lift him over the waves as they rolled in and he’d immediately ask to be allowed to float on his own – a sign of his confidence and independence combining. I fell backwards into the water, letting the waves rush over me and immediately, I felt lighter. Kesh did too. She’s craves the ocean when she’s pregnant. We walked up the beach, the sand sticking to our feet.
It was later than we’d normally eat dinner so we grabbed some takeaway and sat around our table as night set in. My sister in law must have been in tune with the universe that night. Three of my neices tapped on our front door holding a box of home made cookies. They gave me hugs, said hello to Roo and ran back to their Mum’s car. We walked out and thanked her for what she’d done. It was only a small thing but it made as feel as though God was aware of us.
We returned to dinner and Kesh gave me a confused look before standing up. ‘I think my waters have broken’, she said. With Roo, they never broke and were ruptured at the hospital so we spent a minute or two making sure this is what had actually happened. Kesh’s due date was still nine days away so we weren’t expecting labour for another week or so. It was 8:15pm and we quickly got Roo into bed and started prepping the house. It was only a month ago, we’d completely committed to a home birth. Kesh had become frustrated with the way she was being treated after multiple ultrasounds showed our little boy was measuring in the 97th percentile for his size. Kesh is well researched and educated in birth and after being told to prepare for a ceasarian (amongst other things) by her obstetrician, she made the call and we booked a private midwife we’d previously met with. Once the decision was made to birth at home, Kesh started to feel positive about birth again – something she had never felt since going through our local hospital. Let me add here that I’m not an advocate of home birth, I’m an advocate of women birthing in a way that they believe in. Period.
I put fresh sheets on our bed, then a plastic sheet and then another set of sheets with the idea being that you can take off the top sheets and plastic and have a freshly made bed (genius whoever came up with that). We grabbed the pool, towels, birth ball and everything else we thought we might need. It still felt crazy that Kesh was actually in labour. I called the midwife and told her what was happening and it was decided we’d keep her updated and she’d come once things started progressing. I then called my Mum who had proven so powerful, influential and significant in the birth of Roo (a role Kesh’s Mum also fulfilled). Mum had also had a tough day and was only just on her way home from work with my Dad who is two weeks post a knee replacement (the only man I know who works through surgery like that). At first they thought I was joking when I told them Kesh’s waters had broken. I’m the boy who cried wolf and often make up ridiculous stories to make my family laugh. Once it was established that I was actually telling the truth, my parents packed and drove the two hours to be close by. Their sacrifice will always be an example to me. Their children are their priority, especially when we need them most.
If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know I’m religious. I recognise that most of you aren’t but I didn’t want to leave this next part out, so bear with me. In my church, we’re encouraged to pray to our Father in Heaven. To pour out our hearts to him. To thank him for our blessings and to ask him for things we need. Sometimes though, when we really need something, we give someone what we call a ‘blessing’. Essentially it’s a prayer with additional power with hands placed on the head of the person in need. I knew Kesh needed heaven’s help that day. She was embarking on the most holy of journeys. She sat on our lounge and I placed my hands on her head. I told her that the Creator of our universe loved her and was infinitely aware of her at this time. I told her that while today she had felt as though she was in darkness, there was a light shining inside of her that would soon be so bright, neither of us would comprehend it’s beauty. I said a lot of things to Kesh during that blessing and at the end of it, Kesh felt as though she was ready for what was ahead of us.
Contractions began within minutes and at first were 10-15 minutes apart. From what Kesh said, they were pretty mild. We decided we should definitely try and get some sleep. We knew that this might be another marathon. At 10:30pm we lay in bed and almost immediately, Kesh’s contractions increased in frequency and intensity. Sleep wasn’t an option. I prepped the pool and Kesh contracted, moving through our home before settling on the lounge.
I have to be honest here. Roo’s birth took Kesh and I down a road neither of us would have chosen to walk down. At times it was dark and seemed never ending. While ultimately, his story is one of love and positivity, I’ve come to realise that I had a few wounds that hadn’t healed properly. As I watched Kesh on our lounge, I realised that she needed me again. I also realised that maybe I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was. I knew she needed my touch, my words and my strength. I felt like my tank was empty though, as I continued to focus on how long Roo’s labour was. I was willing myself to go to that place I needed to so that I could be everything Kesh needed. It wasn’t working though.
Kesh got into the pool and the contractions increased in intensity again. We called my Mum who had made the journey to be with us and she arrived from her hotel about ten minutes later. Again, I was grateful for her powerful presence. For her motivation and for the confidence I took from her. We both leant over the pool and massaged the front of Kesh’s legs as hard as we could. Kesh thinks she had lactic acid building up in her legs and the massaging helped a little. It was midnight and Kesh asked me to call the midwife. She wanted her with us. I spoke to the midwife and expressed that Kesh wanted to her to drive to be with us but I didn’t back her up strongly enough. To be honest, I thought we still had a lot to go through before our baby would be born. I should have listened to Kesh.
My head was in the game now though. My body realised sleep wasn’t what was needed and I spoke words of encouragement to Kesh with each contraction and was grateful for the ability to support my wife.
Mum suggested Kesh should move to the bathroom to make sure her bladder was completely empty to free up every bit of space. As soon as Kesh sat up she had the strongest contraction of the night. I helped her out of the pool and we walked to the bathroom. She sat down and said something that made my heart beat out of my chest. ‘I feel like I need to push’. I called the midwife. I told her Kesh wanted to push. She was out the door before I’d finished the sentence. Kesh felt sick and she was, more than once. Vomit is probably my least favourite thing in the world. When I see it, hear it, smell it or have anything to do with it, I feel sick. Not this time though. I held the bucket, emptied it and made sure Keshy’s hair was out of the way. We decided we’d head to our bedroom and Kesh could find a position on our bed that worked.
As we left the bathroom, Kesh leaned on me, taking the smallest of steps and crying big tears. She later told me that she was thinking if our baby wasn’t about to be born, she didn’t think she could take these contractions much longer. Something similar happened with Roo. We had been at the hospital for 10 hours or so and it appeared as though Roo was about to be born. The midwife was literally waiting to deliver. But then he didn’t come and we’d be waiting another 12 hours until he finally did. With this in mind, I still was convinced that we had hours and hours ahead. Again, I should have listened to Kesh.
The first contraction Kesh had on our bed, she said those words again. ‘I need to push’. I think it was then that I realised our baby was actually on his way. I ran around madly grabbing towels, wipes and anything I could see that might be helpful. Mum called the midwife who said she was about 25 minutes away. ‘Slow your breathing’, Mum said to Kesh. ‘We need to hold on until the midwife gets here’. That was wishful thinking and Kesh told Mum very directly that wasn’t going to happen.
We spoke for a few seconds about calling an ambulance before even that option was removed. Kesh was actually pushing and our baby was coming. ‘You’re delivering this baby, Tim’. Mum was very direct. ‘I’ll talk you through everything and relay what the midwife is telling me’.
At this point, it’s also important to note that my Mum has attended hundreds of births. She herself has birthed six children and two sets of twins (yes, I have two sets of twin sisters) and all of them were natural births. My Mum gave birth to twins that were breach and posterior. She’s helped so many women give birth and now we were about to help Kesh.
I went from being frantic to being calm, assured and confident. I don’t know how or why it happened but I realised this was meant to be. I spoke to Kesh and told her she was incredible. I told her she was doing beautifully. And then it happened. I could see my baby’s head. I gently placed my hands where they were needed to support Kesh and Mum talked Kesh through her breathing. Another contraction. Our boy is face down and his head is out. ‘Get ready to catch him’, Mum said knowing exactly what was to come. Catch him I did. He came flying out, straight into my waiting hands. Instinctively, I placed him onto Kesh’s chest. We rubbed his back, cleared his mouth and then he cried. I’ve never been so grateful to hear a cry. The most beautiful thing I’d ever heard.
Our midwife arrived within minutes. She helped Kesh through the final stages, while I stood back and shook my head, struggling to comprehend what had just happened. We FaceTime’d Kesh’s parents in Africa and shared the news with them. Kesh’s Dad was so proud. He walked around his office showing all his colleagues his new Grandson. ‘Only one hour old!’, he told the whole office.
Our little boy was checked over, weighed and placed back into Kesh’s arms. She’d done it. We’d done it.
The hero here is Kesh. And Zion. And Roo too, for sleeping through the whole thing, just across the hallway.